The Art of the Ask

heartsOne challenge that has been with me throughout most of my active life as a content developer and producer has been the careful approach to the Ask.

Whatever we’ve been involved in, it has always come up against the need to ask something of someone at some point. How to make this Ask, how to craft it and shape it, and how to react to the answers to the Ask are, have I found, one of the most important parts of any project.

There are several Asks in any one project, especially in the creative industries I’m active in. The most important are, in no particular order, the Collaboration Ask, the Backing Ask, the Audience Ask and the Self Ask.

The Collaboration Ask

Almost all of the projects I’ve been involved in, either as creator, as team member or as consultant / hired gun have evolved around collaboration. Today’s media and content world is a many-faceted one and very few of us have the skill set – or the time – to do all the different necessary things on our own. Collaboration is key. The Ask of the collaborators then boils down to an Ask for buying in to your vision, for them adding of their own creativity and competence to enhance the project in the right direct.

It’s fundamentally an Ask to accept your world view over their own, within the scope of the project, and enhancing that view with the resources they have at their disposal. Key here is, naturally, my own ability to explain the project and my vision, but also my possibility to approach the persons that have the necessary skill set and the ability to adjust their view of the world to encompass mine. I.e. – researching the right collaborators will infinitely improve your ability to hand them the proper Ask.

The Backing Ask

Very few things are created in a vacuum. Almost everything I’ve worked on has required the backing of someone or something – either through tangible resources such as funding, facilities or equipment, or intangible such as advice, connections, “vouching for” etc.

Whereas the Collaboration Ask is about inviting others into my vision and asking them to enhance it with their capabilities and skill sets, the Backing Ask is calling for a little more faith. A positive answer to the Backing Ask will mean that any backer will feel the positive vibe of backing a project they believe in, but also the slightly negative vibe of allocating resources to something they themselves will be less able to influence.

The key here is to know what to Ask for. If the Ask is very big in comparison with the resources of the backer, there will almost certainly be a notion of resentment from the very outset. If the Ask is for something slightly outside of what the backer actually can offer the project, there will almost certainly be a notion of annoyance that can be very difficult to overcome even by changing the Ask.

There is only one way to arrive at the right Backing Ask and that is to carefully study your potential backer. Who are they, what are they,why are they and what can they actually offer?

The Audience Ask

No project is anything without an audience, and the Audience Ask is probably the one you should spend the most time on perfecting. Whether it’s about something as simple as getting your audience to actually watch your show or visit your website, and come back for the next episode or the next update, or if the Ask is more complex, it’s all about crafting a very exact, unambiguous and rewarding Ask to be put to the audience.

Again, there is only one way to arrive at the right Ask for the audience you intend to reach, and that is to research that audience. What do they respond to? How do they respond? What will peak their interest, and what will keep it engaged in the long run? How do they react to disappointment? How do they react to success? How big can your ask be without scaring them away?

Combine the answer to these questions with what your goals are for your project, and craft a realistic timeline for achieving those goals. Portion out your Ask in logical steps over the timeline, with continuous monitoring of the Answer activity to your Ask, and adjust accordingly. This should get you to the destination you want to reach.

The Self Ask

This is both the most important Ask to be able to ask and the most difficult. I should be able to know what I can realistically Ask of myself. I should be able to be honest about my ambitions, my goals, my dreams for a certain project, as well as my own limitations.

What I Ask of myself directly reflects what I can ask of anyone else involved, in any capacity, in the project. If I’m not able to direct one level of Ask to myself, I can’t expect anyone else to be as invested in the project as to answer a similar Ask positively.

Most importantly though, is honesty and trust in my own abilities. I have to be able to Answer my own Ask in the negative, just like any other person or entity can, without feeling let down or failed. If one thing is not possible, then it’s not, and then I have to find another way forward. Alternatively I must know my own abilities well enough to be able to answer a difficult Ask with a positive Answer, without feeling insecure or fraudulent.

Trust and knowledge – the two most important aspects of any Ask in any project.

4 thoughts on “The Art of the Ask

  1. THE ART OF THE ASK would make for a terrific Panel Discussion with Panelists covering each Aspect mentioned in this post. Each could then play Devil’s Advocate and share both positive and negative experiences. Well done, Sir.

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